Magazines ramp up paywall strategies

It seems magazine publisher, Hearst Magazines, has quietly performed a deep-dive into its paywall model, according to an article by WWD.

It comes as no surprise that the media could attempt to become less reliant on its main source of income – advertising dollars – an already struggling revenue stream that has experienced heavy hits amidst the current pandemic. In fact, over the last few months, Hearst has tested membership programs and metered paywalls as a result.

One of the publisher’s most popular magazines, Cosmopolitan, has introduced a package, Cosmo Unlocked, which includes unlimited digital access and an exclusive newsletter, with content being priced at US$2 a month. For US$20 a year, readers can access the print magazine, website and newsletter, in addition to other various deals. Those without a digital subscription will have access to four free articles per month.

“Membership and paid digital programs are an important focus for us,” Hearst senior vice president for consumer revenue and development, Brian Madden, said. “Our premium brands help us build a more connected relationship to the consumer, providing greater opportunity to generate revenue across our branded products, affiliate commerce, events and more.”

Some of Hearst’s other renowned titles, Popular Mechanics and Men’s Health, launched their subscriptions in May and June, respectively. Pop Mech Pro is priced at US$4 a month, while Men’s Health MVP offers the same price as Cosmopolitan. Meanwhile, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health and Bicycling also recently unveiled similar programs. Runner’s World has had one since 2019.

It has not been confirmed whether Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Marie Claire will make use of the metered paywalls. However, Bazaar has a Brides membership, which ranges in price from US$30 to $US90 per year.

When it comes to the new strategy, Madden said he believes it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, adding, "We are always experimenting and looking at what’s working.”

But as Hearst ramps up its paywall strategy, competitor Condé Nast seems to chop and change when it comes to sticking with a paywall plan. Nevertheless, a Condé spokeswoman revealed the publisher’s metered paywalls have resulted in great success.
“Audiences at The New Yorker, Wired, and Vanity Fair have proven that they are willing to pay for the quality journalism we create, and the performance of each of these paywalls has exceeded our expectations," she said. "Subscriptions from these sites have increased four to five times since their respective launches.”